The Books of Magic: The Mysterious Student, Chapter 1: Naala the Satyr

by Christine Nightstar

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Timothy Hunter stared up at the clock hanging in the assembly hall, his stomach grumbling with hunger. It had only been an hour or two since lunch, but it felt like an eternity. The thought of waiting until the dinner feast at seven o’clock seemed unbearable. He sighed, weighing his options. He could either wallow in self-pity or venture out in search of a tasty snack while Orientation Day carried on.

With that decision firmly in mind, Tim took a bite of his apple, the satisfying crunch echoing through the hall as he walked past the Bestiary and the Clock Tower. He continued on, curiosity tugging at him like an invisible thread, until he stumbled upon a mysterious area he had never seen before. A cave loomed before him, its opening towering at ten feet high and radiating intense heat and humidity.

“Can I help you, student?” a voice called out from the depths of the cave, its words somehow making the room feel even hotter. The speaker was hidden in the shadows, with flickering pools of molten rock nearby.

Tim cleared his throat, feeling sheepish. “I was just passing by and noticed this cave… thought I’d take a look,” he explained.

“Curiosity kills, you know. Don’t you, student?” The voice dripped with a warning, and a figure emerged from the back of the cave. It was Ramphastos, the bird-man from Feithera, holding several scroll cases. The Feitheran was adorned in a long, dark cloak, and his scholarly appearance heightened Tim’s awareness of the presence lurking beneath his seemingly harmless exterior.

“I suppose so,” Tim replied, his throat suddenly dry as he tentatively inched backward. “I’ll be on my way, sir.”

Ignoring Tim, Ramphastos continued his task, placing the scrolls on shelves hidden behind a large rock between the molten pools. He carefully examined each scroll before assigning it to its proper place. Tim fidgeted nervously, unsure of what to do next.

“What is your name, student?” Ramphastos inquired, still not bothering to look directly at Tim.

“Timothy Hunter, sir,” Tim responded, his voice barely above a whisper.

“Ah, yes. You’re in my one o’clock class,” the Feitheran remarked, finally acknowledging Tim’s presence. “Don’t be late, Mr. Hunter. You may leave now.”

Tim felt his grip on the apple loosen as he hurriedly made his way out of the cave. The encounter had left him unsettled, the bird-man from Feithera sending shivers down his spine. In his first year at Grimoire, he had witnessed many extraordinary things, but there was something uniquely chilling about this creature. He quickly retreated to the safety of the bathroom before setting off to find his friend Rick, needing the comfort of familiar company.


Rick Billings had been unable to approach Ramphastos to ask him any questions, mainly due to being distracted by a new student named Naala. Naala was quite unique, just as her name implied. Standing at around five foot four, she sported short chestnut-brown hair, with two three-inch-long, three-quarter-inch-thick horns protruding from her temples, pushing her hat toward the back of her head. Her torso was covered by an oversized T-shirt depicting Darth Vader, matched in color and shade by her denim vest and skirt. Additionally, she had a leather wineskin hanging from her waist.

When Tim caught up with him, Rick explained that Naala and her family hailed from a dimension known as Gemworld, which had a connection to the same Earth as Tim. However, she had also spent a few years living in the Hidden Land, alongside the Homo Magi population. It was through her Homo Magi friends that she had become well-versed in human popular culture. Despite being primarily separate from the rest of humanity, the younger Homo Magi used their magic remotely to smuggle in entertainment from the outside world. Like Tim and Rick, Naala had been assigned to Zatara Hall, a student residence accommodating individuals from Earths One and Two, as well as a few from the three other Earths.

As introductions were made, Tim’s eyes darted from Naala’s chestnut hair to her peculiar lower half, having hairy legs and cloven feet that matched her horns. With an incredulous stare, he finally mustered the courage to ask, “You’re not human, are you?” This was beginning to feel like a recurring theme this year.

Naala smirked, clearly amused by Tim’s observation. “Well, I certainly hope not! Do you know how much trouble humans get into? No offense, of course. I’m a satyr.”

Laughter erupted between Tim and Rick, but Naala stared at them, perplexed by their amusement. “What’s so funny?” she inquired, tilting her head.

Tim managed to catch his breath, grinning at Naala. “You’re right. Humans do get into plenty of trouble. But, sorry, I’ve never heard of a female satyr before.”

Naala sighed, a hint of frustration in her voice. “We’ve been around for ages, you know. We mostly resemble males, minus the horns, and well… with female parts as well. It’s just that, thanks to Pan and our male-dominated society, women weren’t allowed to do anything fun until about fifty years ago. Until then we were confined to household chores like cooking and cleaning, and mundane tasks like making wine and getting married young — the usual boring things.”

Tim and Rick exchanged surprised glances at her story. “You haven’t been… I mean, you’re not…” Tim started to ask, when he was interrupted by Rick.

“You do know who that is on your T-shirt, don’t you?” Rick asked, raising an eyebrow.

Naala grinned, hugging herself in excitement. “Of course, it’s Darth Vader! I mean, come on, how can anyone not think he’s cool?”

Rick furrowed his brows, a hint of concern in his voice. “But you do realize he’s basically an evil wizard, right?”

Naala waved off his worries with a dismissive hand. “Oh, please! It’s a fantasy story, Rick. We need an evil wizard to make it interesting. And besides, it’s the way he’s so effortlessly bad that makes him such an intriguing character. By the way, no, I haven’t tied the knot yet, though some of my friends have. My dad would probably go berserk if I even mentioned getting betrothed at my age. But according to my mom, being married doesn’t sound all that enjoyable. More like a chore, really.” She giggled, noticing the boys growing uncomfortable.

Curiosity getting the better of him, Rick sputtered out his question while accompanying Naala to the girls’ dorms at Zatara Hall. “How old are you, Naala?”

Naala tilted her head, a mischievous glint in her eyes. “I’m thirteen. And what about you two?”

“I just turned thirteen,” Tim answered, a bit shyly.

Rick beamed, puffing his chest out. “Well, I’m thirteen and a half,” he proudly declared.

Naala nodded, smirking. “Well, at least, in my culture I’m old enough to drink,” she taunted, flashing a wineskin before taking a gulp. “Care for some wine?”

Rick eyed the container, skepticism oozing from his voice. “Is that real wine?” He had always heard that in France parents let their kids have wine, but this was something else.

Naala giggled, a hint of mischief in her voice. “Straight from my dad’s vineyards. Wine made from blackberries, my favorite.”

“No, thanks,” said Tim suddenly, pulling Rick away, his voice hushed with paranoia. “We should go, Rick. If we don’t meet again at any of the class introductions, we’ll see you at the feast tonight, Naala!”

As they walked away from Naala and toward the boys’ dorms at Zatara Hall, Rick shot Tim a bewildered look. “Why did you stop me, Tim? We could have tasted some wine.”

“You really are clueless sometimes, Rick,” Tim interrupted, rolling his eyes in a mix of exasperation and annoyance. “If we get caught drinking wine, we could face serious consequences — expulsion or worse. Let Naala enjoy her drink. Like she said, she’s old enough. Let it go.”

“But, Tim…” Rick whined, trailing off as they made their way to change for the feast. His disappointment lingered, sulking every step of the way.


“Last year’s feasts were beyond imagination, with foods of every kind!” Tim exclaimed to his friend Rick, his eyes widening with excitement. “I mean, there were foods that I didn’t even know existed!”

Rick nodded, his mouth watering at the memory. “I know, right? But look at this. What’s happened to the tables? They’re bare!”

The two boys walked into the cafeteria, searching for a place to sit. The other students were also bewildered, their gazes flicking around in confusion. “Where’s the feast?” someone whispered.

Tim scanned the room, taking note that the strangely bare tables, which last year had been elegantly set out by this time. But what really caught his attention was something else. As he glanced over to all of the teachers dressed in their finest outfits, he noticed that there was one conspicuously absent. Ramphastos was nowhere to be seen.

“Good. Ramphastos isn’t here,” Tim commented, relief evident in his voice.

Rick raised an eyebrow. “Why is that good?”

“Well, let’s just say the class introduction with him could have gone better,” Tim admitted, shuddering at the memory. “I tried to blend in, but Rick, you just couldn’t resist asking him about Feithera and pestering him for an autograph from Northwind and all the other members of Infinity, Inc. on your Earth.”

Rick blushed, feeling a pang of regret. “I just… I thought he might know him, since they’re both from Feithera.”

The mention of Northwind had triggered something in Ramphastos. His reaction had been chilling, a cold, icy stare that made Rick and everyone else in the class shrink back. It was clear that Northwind and Feithera were sensitive topics for the teacher.

The class had breathed a collective sigh of relief as Ramphastos finally moved on with his introduction. The tension in the air had dissipated, at least for the moment.

Just as the students settled themselves at their tables, a loud flash-bang echoed, causing everyone to turn their heads. Mr. Gallowglass had appeared at the podium, commanding attention with his presence.

“Attention, attention, all,” the one-eyed headmaster’s voice boomed. “Before we dive into the feast, I have a few announcements. Firstly, let me introduce our new teachers. Many of you saw Mr. Ramphastos earlier, who will be teaching Ethics in Magic and Botany. However, he is unable to join us tonight due to a personal matter.”

Tim and Rick exchanged nervous glances. Was Ramphastos absent because of Rick’s ill-timed question? The headmaster’s piercing gaze seemed to linger on them for a moment, intensifying their concerns. Could a teacher who apparently had animosity toward his own people, and especially toward Northwind, be trusted with the students?

Tim pondered these questions as he listened to the headmaster’s announcements, his mind brimming with curiosity and a hint of uneasiness.

“At the end of the table is Mr. Christopher Drake,” continued Gallowglass, “who will be teaching Arcane Lore this year while Mr. Lucien is taking a well-deserved break. As a reminder, students in Mr. Drake’s class who would like to go on the field trips must collect permission forms to send to your parents or guardians.”

The long-haired teacher stood up and held his glass in salute before sitting down. To Tim, it was clear that Mr. Drake was not your typical academic, looking more like an adventurous explorer, similar to Johnny Peril, but with more of a devil-may-care attitude. He was quite the opposite of the bookish Mr. Lucien, who spent his days in the library.

“And next to him, we have our new teacher for fringe science and technology, Miss Racquel Reynolds,” the headmaster announced. A shapely woman with long blonde hair, wearing both a cowboy hat and a smart pantsuit, stood up and raised her glass in salute.

Tim couldn’t help but notice as two fourth-year students, both fellow members of the new Sentinels of Magic he had helped form last year, were exchanging whispers and chuckles at a nearby table. (*) Gray Murphy, poking his friend Alfred Twitchell, made a vulgar remark about Miss Reynolds’ “rack” that was rather inappropriate, especially in mixed company. Patsy Ambrose and Naala, sitting opposite Murphy, responded by giving them both a swift kick under the table.

[(*) Editor’s note: See The Books of Magic: Changeling Unmasked.]

“Ouch! What was that for?!” Murphy exclaimed, rubbing his leg with an indignant expression.

“You were being an absolute pig, Murphy!” Patsy scolded.

“As if the boys back where I come from aren’t bad enough,” added Naala.

“At least I don’t have to beg for a date like you do,” Murphy retorted.

“If your attitude towards us girls doesn’t change this year, you’ll be begging, Murphy,” Patsy warned with a stern gaze. “I’ll make sure of it.”

“Is everyone quite finished?” the headmaster interrupted suddenly. The Zatara Hall students fell silent, and Mr. Gallowglass continued. “And now, allow me to introduce our new school physician and mystical healing instructor, Dr. Marisa Mortale.” A younger woman with brown hair stood up, holding her glass high in the air, before settling back into her seat. Unlike Miss Reynolds and the other female teachers, Dr. Mortale had a more motherly appearance, dressed conservatively in a blouse, jacket, and skirt.

“At last,” Mr. Gallowglass announced with a sense of pride, his voice booming throughout the hall. “I am delighted to share the news that our esteemed groundskeeper, Mr. Frankenstein, who has dutifully served this school since its inception, shall now take on the role of our Practical Cryptozoology instructor. He has assisted Mr. Xiang for far too long without due recognition.”

As the crowd erupted into applause, Adam Frankenstein, a towering figure standing at the back of the hall, nodded his head in modest acknowledgement. With a quiet shuffle, he made his way back to the Bestiary, his heart swelling with gratitude.

“Before we proceed, I must remind you all that no activities shall be permitted in the Bestiary without Mr. Frankenstein’s explicit permission,” Mr. Gallowglass announced, his authoritative voice cutting through the bustling excitement. “We have acquired several new creatures during the break, and Mr. Frankenstein is currently guiding them through their transition. Now, without further delay, let the feast begin.”

In an instant, with a mere flick of Mr. Gallowglass’ hand, a magnificent spread of food from various cultures materialized on the tables. Countless dishes, both familiar and exotic, tempted the eyes and senses of all present. Gareth Gallowglass wasn’t known as Master of the Impossible for nothing, after all.

Tim, mesmerized by the delectable aromas wafting through the air, couldn’t help but notice that tonight’s fare was unlike anything he had experienced before. The flavors danced upon his tongue, enchanting him with their richness. Even the teachers seemed to revel in the culinary delight, their expressions mirroring the students’ ecstasy.

Then something caught Tim’s attention, causing him to pause mid-bite. In the corner of the room, the figure clad entirely in black that he had seen earlier now stood silently, almost blending into the shadows. Intrigued, he turned to his best friend, Rick, and pointed discreetly toward the mysterious figure.

“Rick, do you see that person over there, dressed all in black?” Tim whispered, his curiosity piqued.

Rick followed Tim’s gaze, scanning the corner carefully. After a moment, he shook his head. “I’m sorry, Tim. I don’t see anyone there. Are you sure?”

Confused, Tim glanced back at the spot where the enigmatic figure had stood. To his surprise, it was now conspicuously empty. Doubt gnawed at his mind. Had he imagined it all? Or was there something more to this perplexing sighting?


After the grand feast had come to an end and the students were eagerly making their way back to their respective residence halls, Tim found himself stumbling over an unseen object in the darkness of the evening. His heart skipped a beat as he tumbled to the ground, a sigh of relief escaping his lips when he realized that no one had witnessed his clumsy misstep.

As he dusted himself off, grateful for his solitude, his eyes caught sight of something peculiar gleaming in the dim light. It was an unassuming envelope, crafted from a paper that Tim had never encountered before. Filled with curiosity, he cautiously tore it open, his hands trembling in anticipation. What he discovered within its folds left him utterly astounded.

Cascading out of the envelope were photographs of an infant, then a toddler, followed by snapshots of a little boy on his very first day of school. Tim was astonished when he realized that they were all pictures of him. The perplexity of the situation intensified as he recognized his mother Mary in some of the pictures, their presence stirring up memories of a time before her death when he was still young.

Intriguingly, accompanying the photographs were a series of notes, written in a foreign language and an unfamiliar handwriting style, scrawled across a type of paper Tim had never encountered. Yet, to his astonishment, despite the jumbled mess of characters resembling mere chicken scratches to his eyes, Tim found himself instinctively comprehending every single word. It was as though the enigmatic language had morphed seamlessly into English upon reaching his gaze. As he realized that the front of the envelope displayed his own name, a shiver ran down his spine, causing his skin to prickle uneasily.

Just as Tim’s mind grappled with the enigma of the mysterious student he had encountered earlier, his thoughts became further muddled with the puzzling contents of this cryptic envelope.

Lost in his escalating confusion, he was abruptly startled by the weight of a large but comforting hand resting on his shoulder. The touch was that of Adam Frankenstein, the groundskeeper of the school — a figure known equally for his gentleness and the daunting power he wielded.

“Are you all right, boy? You didn’t suffer any injuries, I trust,” Adam’s voice, soft yet raspy, permeated the air.

Stammering, Tim replied, his mind still awash with the bewildering discoveries in his possession, “Um… no, Mr. Frankenstein, I’m fine. Thank you. I should be on my way now.” Without further delay, anticipation bubbling within him, Tim sprinted off toward Zatara Hall.

As he went, the commanding voice of Frankenstein’s monster echoed behind him, “And don’t forget, no running in the halls!”

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